Riding an 11-game home winning streak, Clemson hosts its first top-15 throwdown since the last loss in Death Valley.
If you’re a Tiger diehard, you already know the score and opponent in that one, but 2013 FSU did go into the primetime tilt as a slight favorite (by three points, per Phil Steele’s magazine) and did win every other game they played.
Fast forward about two years to another October matchup – ESPN GameDay in town again for the first time since – and No. 12 Clemson (3-0) opened as a 2-point favorite over No. 6 Notre Dame (4-0). The game is now listed as a ‘Pick ’em.’
One reason why the Tigers may have an early edge? The Fighting Irish haven’t exactly excelled in true road games under coach Brian Kelly – improving to 10-11 with a head-scratchingly-close 34-27 win at Virginia a couple weeks ago. Of course, they lost starting QB Malik Zaire in the process, but it’s nothing close to a quality win, as the Hoos lost 56-14 at home to Boise State over the weekend, which played two backup QBs.
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Reversing course from previous weeks, ESPN’s Football Power Index predictor shifted to Clemson (54.1) – the Tigers No. 6 and Irish No. 9 under the measure.
Clemson is given the best chance to win the ACC now, at 31.8 percent, over FSU (24.7). No Coastal team is even in double-digits (Georgia Tech the best with 9.4).
Notre Dame is in the red figures in only one more remaining game – at Stanford to close the season (47.7), while their date with Southern Cal is a near toss-up (51.1).
Clemson has the No. 1-rated defense by ESPN’s measure – No. 34 on offense and No. 108 on special teams. The second-toughest game left on the Tigers’ schedule? At NC State on Halloween (56.1).
Football Outsiders’ FEI advanced rank has Clemson fifth overall (.220), trailing only Alabama (.286), Ohio State (.243), Baylor (.237) and Ole Miss (.220). Notre Dame is not far behind in eighth (.204).
A varying rank on the same site has a wider margin between the programs – Clemson in sixth (96.5 percentile) and Notre Dame 12th (92). The Tigers are armed with the No. 30 offense and No. 5 defense there, where the Fighting Irish are No. 6 on offense and No. 40 defensively.